Eastern Shore of Virginia
and Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuges

We arose bright and early on Saturday morning for a canoe tour of part of the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. It was cold out, but fortunately the wind was calm. It is difficult to describe the beauty of the scene as the sun sent shafts of light through the dramatic clouds. The pictures can only approximate it.

Our guide said that we should hear clapper rails, and, almost as soon as the words were out his mouth, we did. However, he did fail to deliver on his promise of a hippo. The marsh grasses were full of periwinkles. The birding was slow, but the serenity of the location more than made up for it. We paddled (just barely) out into the Atlantic where we watched some American oystercatchers on a sandbar. On the return trip, we also saw a Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow.

In the afternoon, we were fortunate to be able to go to Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge which is located off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Access to the public is generally not permitted there. The habitat was fascinating. We saw the remains of two sea turtles that had washed ashore; one large, one small. Birding goodies included Caspian terns, brown pelicans, raptors - turkey vultures, osprey, red-tailed hawks, merlin, northern harrier, and broad-winged hawk - and thousands of swirling tree swallows . The naturalist explained that the tree swallows swarmed when a raptor approached. The large flocks and motion make it difficult for a hawk to concentrate on an individual. We enjoyed watching the sanderlings race the waves along the shore.

After our visit to Fisherman Island, we went back to the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge and entered their new visitor center. A very modern building with interesting and informative exhibits, it features a large picture window overlooking a pond. They have conveniently furnished binoculars and scopes for use by the public. (One scope is even mounted at a low level so that it can easily be used by children.) We observed pied-billed grebes and snowy and cattle through this window. We then walked part of the grounds and observed an immature bald eagle.

That evening, we had a less than memorable dinner at a restaurant that shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. Actually, at least one of us will long remember this restaurant, albeit not fondly. However, the dinner was more than made up for by the showing of the rough edit of a film on warblers that will be made into a video. The soundtrack was not done yet, but the producers of the film, Michael Male and Judith Fieth of Blue Earth Films, read from the script and gave additional commentary. This outstanding film features incredible closeups of these beautiful birds. The video, due out on November 25, 1996, will be called Watching Warblers and I definitely intend to purchase it.

December 23, 1996 - Update: It seems the video was delayed in release, but I just received it today. It is truly an extraordinary film. It was even better watching it at home without the distractions of the restaurant. The closeups and bird songs are fantastic. The last five minutes gives a brief recap of all the eastern wood warblers - that part alone is worth the price. Highly recommended!

Kiptopeke and Oyster

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Copyright 1996 Richard L. Becker